Might computerization and robotization be a bigger problem for our culture than climate change?
In its report to The Cryosphere journal, the AWI team does not actually calculate a sea-level rise equivalent number, but if this volume is considered to be all ice (a small part will be snow) then the contribution is likely to be on the order of just over a millimetre per year.
For those who are metric-challenged, there are 25.4 millimeters per inch. At that pace, we'll have seas rise an inch by 2040 or so. For areas that are on the verge of going under, that might tip them over the edge, but the raw numbers don't justify the nightmare scenarios of New York City turning into Venice by mid-century.
It would seem to me that managing any modest changes that do happen would be easier than to try and micro-manage the world economy in order to cut CO2 emissions. I don't think that that's denying science, just taking it at face value.
Meanwhile, we have an interesting piece on HTML creator Tim Berners-Lee.
“Companies are increasingly going to be run by computers. And computers are getting smarter and we are not.” The only solution, he argues, is for people to embrace new technology, and accept that some jobs will simply disappear.
The idea of automation making more and more jobs obsolete isn't new, but we're on the verge of having robotics of varying sorts making a number of jobs go the way of the dodo. This piece of mine from 2004 (my most Googled post thanks to the title) on mundane jobs comes to mind; here was my final paragraph
Someone's going to have to pick up the trash, man the school cafeteria, drive the trucks and stock the grocery-store shelves. Hopefully, those people will move on to better things, but let's respect those who are there and the businesses who hire them. Some would like them to get a lot more respect on payday, with better wages and more health benefits; however, that's going to raise prices and may force companies out of business, which will mean zero wages and no benes for those who are laid off.
We might well see truck drivers made obsolete in a decade or two. If self-driving vehicles continue to evolve and become a reality on the roads, truck-driving might be handed over to a computerized system rather than a human driver.
"What if the computer fails?" is the common reply. We have wetware failure on a regular basis with human drivers, so if the computer is more reliable on average than an human that gets tired and distracted, it might become a safety precaution to have a computer behind the wheel. That would decimate the Teamsters and do a number on the truck stop industry, as an automated truck might need gas and tires but not food and hot showers.
The grocery-store shelves might be stocked by a robot in the not-to-distant future. I recall reading where Google's working on a prototype of such a critter; I can't quite place that via its flagship search engine, but here's a piece where that other CMU has made an inventory robot.
Automation might well be accelerated by government policy. Minimum-wage increases and mandatory health insurance are driving the cost of labor up and Moore's Law and growing expertise in robotics will drive the cost of automation down. At some point, the curves will intersect and Robbie the Robot might take the wheel or take the push-cart away from a worker.
Lower-grade automation will also cut employment; self-checkout lanes at grocery stores are a now-common example, which let one supervising worker manage a half-dozen or more lines. Some Chilis restaurants are experimenting with tablet mini-kiosks at customer tables where they can order items and pay their bills with a credit card. That will let waitresses cover more tables per person and cut on the number of staff needed.
Economic theory would suggest that other jobs will come up as folks are automated out of their old jobs. However, that would require the culture to come up with new tasks that need or want to be done that aren't being done now.
The dystopic vision of an automated future has a underemployed underclass who has next to nothing to do, since the computers and robots are doing all the basic stuff that unskilled labor used to do. The creative class will still have their outlets and people will still be needed to program and make all those computers and robotics, but grunt work will be largely phased out in that universe.
How do we create those new jobs? How do we find things that people want done that aren't being done now? Some of those things we might not even think about right now. A guy working as an on-line tutor with a hobby of writing essays on a computer-broadcast journal called a "blog" would have been science fiction in the 1980s; the Web as we know it just became able to get a drink this year, since it was codified in 1993.
The people who will be on the outside looking in as this automation trend continues aren't likely to be writing blogs or tweeting. Figuring out how to make those folks useful and fulfilled will be a small-m ministry in the years to come.